Assault protections extended to health care providers

The Legislature passed a bill March 29 that enhances assault penalties for health care providers.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist05' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Mike McDonnell'>Sen. Mike McDonnell</a>
Sen. Mike McDonnell

Under a bill passed in 2011, any person who knowingly and intentionally strikes a public safety officer with a bodily fluid is guilty of a Class I misdemeanor assault, which carries a penalty of up to one year imprisonment, a $1,000 fine or both.

The charge is upgraded to a Class IIIA felony if the person committing the assault strikes a person’s eyes, mouth or skin and knows that the fluid is infected with HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C at the time the assault is committed.

A Class IIIA felony carries a penalty of up to three years imprisonment with 18 months of post-release supervision, a $10,000 fine or both.

People protected under the original legislation include law enforcement officers, correctional employees and employees of the state Department of Health and Human Services if the person committing the offense is classified as a dangerous sex offender under the Sex Offender Commitment Act.

The statute was expanded in 2014 to include firefighters and out-of-hospital emergency care providers.

LB913, introduced this session by Omaha Sen. Mike McDonnell, extends such protections to include health care professionals who practice at hospitals or health clinics.

The bill passed on a 47-0 vote.

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